Green Living QA: What Are Your Suggestions For Making Carpets Greener?
07/23/2012 | 12:17 PM
What are your suggestions for making carpets greener?
New carpets contain volatile organic compounds or VOCs, which come from the glues and adhesives used for attaching it to the floor. VOCs are also in that “new carpet smell” which comes from chemicals used in the latex backing. These include toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, ethyl benzene, styrene, acetone and other chemicals which have made the EPA's list of Extremely Hazardous Substances.
New carpets also contain adhesives, stain protectors, and mothproofing that can negatively impact your health. They create fumes that can cause headaches, runny eyes and nose, and odors that can last for years. In addition, many new carpets are sprayed with flame retardants. Research has shown that when carpets were analyzed at the lab they also contained high concentrations of heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury, PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), pesticides and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols). When you vacuum a carpet that is stain-resistant the chemicals can be released into the air and then breathed in.
Old carpets can be just as hazardous. Not only do they contain the chemicals banned from more recent production, they also have had years to accumulate dust mites, dirt, pesticides and other toxins brought in on shoes and pets’ paws. Did you know that your carpet can hold 8 times its weight in toxin-filled dirt? If the carpet is plush or shag there’s probably more dirt hiding in it.
If you must buy a new carpet, choose one made of wool, which is naturally flame retardant, non-toxic, non-allergenic and deters bacterial growth. Also, the moisture content of wool reduces static electricity. (Don't glue your new carpet to the floor; attach it with tackless strips around the room’s perimeter and staple to the subfloor instead, and use untreated carpet pads.) Also, consider buying an Oriental rug. Typically they are made from natural fibers like wool, silk, cotton, goat's hair, and camel's hair, with wool being the most popular material for the pile of the rug.